Tag Archives: The Hill

Here’s a thought: Stress diplomacy over nukes

Donald Trump has offered a word of praise to Hawaii officials.

The president lauds them for taking “full responsibility” for the near-panic caused when someone “pushed the wrong button” and sent out an false alarm that declared there was an incoming missile from … possibly North Korea.

As The Hill reports:

“That was a state thing but we are going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility,” Trump told reporters Sunday.

“But we are going to get involved. Their attitude and their — I think it is terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake,” he continued.

When asked what he will do to prevent a similar false alert from taking place, Trump didn’t answer directly but said, “we hope it won’t happen again.

He added, again according to The Hill:

“Part of it is people are on edge, but maybe eventually we will solve the problem so they won’t have to be so on edge,” Trump said.

Yes, they are “on edge,” Mr. President. Indeed, Trump’s bellicosity along with the unpredictability of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has put millions of Americans — not just those in Hawaii — on edge.

With that, I’ll offer a modest suggestion for the president: How about stressing diplomacy and setting aside the threats of “fire and fury,” “total annihilation” and using a “big nuclear button”?

The military option we keep hearing about ought to be the option of last resort — not the first, second or third resort. Military confrontation with North Korea is, shall we say, fraught with grievous consequences.

I, too, am glad that Hawaii officials have owned their mistake. Hawaii Gov. David Ige has apologized to his constituents and, by extension, to the rest of the nation.

Yes, the federal government can get involved. The commander in chief can set aside the tough talk and start sending signals to North Korea that it’s time to settle our differences through diplomacy.

A new AG is on his/her way?

Donald John Trump Sr.’ s “fine-tuned machine” has hit another pot hole.

It has opened up in the Department of Justice. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now getting skewered by foes on both sides of the political divide.

Democrats detest Sessions mostly for partisan reasons; now even some Republicans are turning on him. Some of them dislike his recusal from the Russian 2016 election meddling investigation, which led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller; others dislike him because he rescinded an Obama administration memo that allowed states to determine how to enforce laws governing the use of marijuana.

As The Hill reports: “When you have Republicans calling for you to step down and you’re in a Republican administration just entering your second year, that’s trouble. He’s really on borrowed time,” said Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide.

Donald Trump himself is angry at Sessions. Why? The recusal, that’s why. The president once said that if he’d known Sessions would have recused himself from the Russia probe he would have selected someone else.

Now we hear from the media that Trump sent White House counsel Don McGahn to the DOJ to try to talk Sessions out of recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

All of this is highly unusual. It borders on bizarre. It also speaks — yet again — the disarray that has become the hallmark of Donald Trump’s administration.

He called it a “fine-tuned machine.” It is nothing of the sort. It is a jalopy in need of a top-to-bottom overhaul.

Trump’s first year: some hits, some misses

Donald Trump is ending 2017 on a high.

He managed to stuff a tax cut down our throats, with help from his Republican allies in both congressional chambers. I get that everyone likes to pay less in taxes. What’s unclear at this moment is whether the cuts are going to help every American or just the rich folks, like Donald Trump.

It will explode the national budget deficit, which used to drive Republican politicians crazy. Not any longer … apparently.

The Hill newspaper listed the president’s top 10 accomplishments as 2017 draws to a close. The paper selected the tax cut as No. 1, citing it as a campaign promised kept.

I would call it a mixed blessing — at best!

Here’s The Hill list

My own top Trump accomplishment would be The Hill’s No. 10: fighting and degrading the status of the Islamic State.

The president vowed during the 2016 campaign that he would destroy ISIS. The commander in chief has carried on with great vigor the battle against ISIS, al-Qaeda and other lesser-known terrorist organizations. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama launched and continued that fight.

Trump has said in recent days that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, the Iraqis have declared victory in their fight against ISIS, which they have waged with continued U.S. military support, advice and training.

We all know the war will go on possibly forever. This post-9/11 world has put the entire planet on high alert, where it likely must remain as long as the forces of evil lurk anywhere on Earth.

I applaud the president’s effort to keep up the fight.

What about the rest of The Hill’s lineup?

The Neil Gorsuch appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court? I wouldn’t have picked Justice Gorsuch for that spot. Period. End of argument. He’s far too right wing for my taste.

Rolling back of regulations? This is one of many anti-Obama initiatives that Trump has vowed to do. To what end? It looks to me as if he just wants to undo his immediate predecessor’s agenda.

The travel ban? The president has implemented an anti-Muslim ban that smacks of religious discrimination. Shameful.

Declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? This move has set Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts back at least a decade. The Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, too.

Pulling out of Paris climate deal? We are virtually alone in this effort to curb carbon emissions.

Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Hey, aren’t Republicans supposed to be “free traders”? Oh, wait! Trump isn’t a real Republican, even though the rock-ribbed base of his party’s support stands by him. Confusing.

Rolling back of Obama’s Cuba policies? Are you kidding me? What kind of threat does a Third World, dirt-poor country like Cuba pose to the world’s greatest military and economic power?

Repealing the net neutrality rules? Trump wants to release the Internet from any government regulations. This one is scary in a still-vague manner. It well might unleash forces we cannot even fathom.

I wish I could support more of what The Hill ranks as the president’s biggest victories. I can’t.

Longing for when presidents were gracious winners

You remember Sally Yates, right? She is the former deputy U.S. attorney general fired by Donald J. Trump because she wouldn’t enforce the president’s ban on Muslims seeking to enter the country.

She’s now speaking out against the president’s insistence that the Justice Department investigate Hillary Rodham Clinton. For what is not entirely clear. The president just keeps hammering at and yammering about Clinton.

Yates wrote this in a tweet, according to The Hill: “DOJ not a tool for POTUS to use to go after his enemies and protect his friends,” Yates said in a tweet Saturday. “Respect rule of law and DOJ professionals. This must stop.”

Oh, how I long for the days when presidents won elections, got about the business of governing, said a good word about their opponents and then let bygones be bygones … even after tough and bruising political campaigns.

Donald Trump isn’t wired that way. In fact, he is not wired to govern effectively, to assume the office of the presidency with grace and dignity. Oh no. He’s wired instead to keep up the battle. He wants to re-litigate an election he won. He wants to keep smearing his opponents’ faces in the fact that he won an Electoral College victory.

There once was a time when presidents didn’t obsess over past battles — particularly those they won. They instead looked ahead exclusively to the myriad challenges that lay before them.

Not Trump. He said in a radio interview: “The saddest thing is, because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved in the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved in the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it.”

Uh, Mr. President? You are the president of the United States. You have the power to do whatever you want — within the law and the U.S. Constitution. If you choose to move away from the 2016 election — which you won! — then just do so.

Dammit!

Trump declares a new culture war

Donald John Trump Sr. just cannot stop getting angry with institutions, people and anything or anyone else.

He’s now declaring a new culture war. He’s stirring up conflict where little — if any of it — exists in the moment.

The president went to the Values Voter Conference and declared his intention to get retail employees to say “Merry Christmas” to customers; he doesn’t like the “Happy Holidays” greeting that some retail outlets deliver to their customers.

Good ever-lovin’ grief, dude! Get a bleeping grip!

Trump unloads

As The Hill reports, Trump’s intent to persuade Americans that there exists some elite class that denigrates their values. He believes they care more about diversity and political correctness than anything else.

What utter crap!

He continues to play to the base that stands with him. He continues to divide Americans along more lines than many of us even knew existed. Now he’s seeking to divide Americans based on whether they insist on receiving Christmas greetings.

Ridiculous.

This angry message runs directly counter to the president’s pledge to unify the country. He won an Electoral College victory while garnering nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Rodham Clinton. He became president with zero political capital to spend. Trump needed to build up that capital by working with Democrats and moderate Republicans on a whole host of legislative priorities.

He chose instead to lob bombs at them.

He’s now heaving political ordnance at Americans while firing the initial shots of this culture war that, in my humble view, is a figment of this guy’s imagination.

It all leaves me wondering whether Donald Trump seems somehow angry that he won the election. How in the world can that be?

How can Trump blunder this part of his job?

The president of the United States takes an oath of office that implies a lot of unwritten responsibilities in addition to those that are explicitly laid out.

One of those tasks the president assumes is to lend aid, comfort, empathy and understanding to Americans in trouble. The president at this moment has a huge undertaking on his hands. It rests on island territories not terribly far from the east coast of the United States.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been decimated by Hurricane Maria. Local officials there are pleading for more help. Yes, they are critical of the president’s public response to their pleas. So, what does Donald John Trump do in response? He fires off tweets that place much of the blame for the islands’ troubles … on the islands themselves.

Such as this one: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

It doesn’t stop there. The president takes public note of Puerto Rico’s debt problems that existed prior to Maria’s violent arrival and wonders aloud just how the federal government is going to be able to provide all the assistance that local authorities are seeking.

Trump ignites Twitter tirade

As The Hill reports: “San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz held an emotional press conference Friday ripping the Trump administration’s efforts to assist the island.

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” she said.

Trump responds to that with more criticism of the mayor. Empathy? Compassion? They appear to be MIA. He’s effectively making himself — big surprise, eh? — the center of this story.

The president’s team keeps telling us he’s “a fighter,” that he doesn’t like getting hit. So, when someone throws a rhetorical punch at him, he’s going to punch back. Does it matter to Trump that the person in this instance who’s throwing punches is desperate for federal aid to save the island where she lives and the city she governs? Quite obviously no.

I’ll reiterate yet again that the president is failing to fulfill the unwritten part of his job description. He’s not lending aid and comfort to his constituents who need help. He’s inflaming an already-critical situation with heartless rhetoric.

Shameful.

Supply and demand and supply …

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is supposed to know about these things.

He was governor of Texas for a zillion years. Before that he was lieutenant governor. Before that he was the state’s agriculture commissioner.

He’s supposed to know some basic economics, or one should think. Yes? OK. He went to West Virginia today and spoke at a coal-fired power plant. Then the secretary said this: “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry said, according to reports. “You put the supply out there, and the demand will follow.”

To borrow a word that Perry himself made famous during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign: Oops!

I believe the secretary had it exactly backward. My understanding of economics suggests this: Demand drives supply, not the other way around.

Or, as The Hill reported: “Twitter users were quick to find fault with Perry’s use of the term, which is defined in the dictionary as the law that ‘an increase in supply will lower prices if not accompanied by increased demand, and an increase in demand will raise prices unless accompanied by increased supply.'”

Check out some of those tweets.

This won’t signal the end of the world or anything like that. I just recall how candidate Donald Trump ridiculed his 2016 GOP opponent for donning eyewear to “make himself look smart.” That was a cruel cut, to be sure.

However, if the president is going to surround himself with “the best people,” as he promised, then he needs them to articulate a basic economic tenet about supply and demand.

Earth to Bannon: Actually, it is a debate

Steven Bannon apparently thinks he can demand whatever he wants and he expects those from whom he demands it to deliver.

Wrong!

The Hill is reporting that Bannon sought to pressure conservative Republican members of Congress into supporting Donald Trump’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act by informing them “this is not a discussion.”

Here is what The Hill reported: “Bannon confronted members of the House Freedom Caucus earlier this week during the White House’s push for the American Health Care Act, Axios’s Mike Allen reported Saturday in his newsletter.

“‘Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill,’ Bannon reportedly said.

“A Freedom Caucus member reportedly replied: ‘You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.'”

There you have it. The White House senior policy adviser tries to browbeat a group of politicians — who have their constituencies to whom they must answer — that they must support a piece of legislation that their “bosses” back home don’t like.

How in the world does that work in the political world?

Well, as Bannon and his boss — the president of the United States — learned the hard way this week, not well at all.

Trump couldn’t be bothered with specifics about the bill, according to The Hill, which reported that the president met with Freedom Caucus members in the White House prior to the decision to give up on the idea of repealing the ACA.

To hell with details? Is that the deal?

As for Bannon’s bluster and bullying, he has just learned that politicians don’t like being told their ideas don’t matter.

Trump redefines ‘fake news’

I am still rolling this one over in my noggin, but it might be that Donald “Smart Person” Trump has crafted a new definition of what we know as “fake news.”

During that rambling and ridiculous press conference Thursday, the president kept asserting that the Russia story is “fake news.”

As Shepard Smith of Fox News points out, it ain’t “fake,” Mr. President, and you need to provide some answers to Americans who are demanding to know the truth.

The Hill reported Smith’s response to Trump’s criticism of the media: “No sir,” Smith continued. “We are not fools for asking this question, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people. Your supporters will support you either way. If your people were on the phone, what were they saying? We have a right to know, we absolutely do and that you call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people is inconsequential. The people deserve an answer to this question at very least.”

Smith, of course, is correct to challenge Trump’s constant berating of media for doing their job.

I’m now beginning to think that what Trump calls “fake news” really is news that is unimportant. It’s true, just not worth the media’s — or the president’s — time.

The whole “fake news” story burst on the public stage with bogus reports intended to do damage to political figures. Someone makes a story up, posts it on the Internet, the story goes viral and people respond the way the person who posts it intended. They make money on all the “clicks” they get on the bogus item. Some of these trolls get caught, are exposed for what they are — liars! — and then vow to quit doing it.

The Russia stories aren’t “fake” if you adhere to that original definition of “fake news.”

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had conversations with Russian officials. The question pending is when he did that and at whose request or command. Moreover, when did Flynn lie to the vice president about it and did he violate the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from “negotiating” with foreign governments?

In other words, did Flynn tell the Russians that the new president would reduce or eliminate the sanctions leveled on them by the man who still was in power, President Barack H. Obama? Remember, too, that the sanctions came after CIA and other intelligence agencies determined that Russian hackers sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

It isn’t “fake,” Mr. President. Reporters have every right — indeed an obligation — to ask you about all this.

It’s important in the extreme.

So, knock off the “fake news” description.

Trump vs. McCain: Keep your punches up …

Donald J. Trump started the feud with John McCain.

The president vs. the senator is now getting serious. I’ll stipulate that I’m rooting for the senator who once was his party ‘s presidential nominee.

This intraparty feud could get in the way of some serious policy matters.

The president fired the first shot in the feud when he told an interview that he didn’t consider the Arizona Republican U.S. senator to be a war hero. Trump said McCain is a hero only because “he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured. OK?”

I was among those who thought that comment would doom Trump’s budding presidential candidacy. Silly me. I was so wrong!

McCain ever since has been none too bashful about criticizing Trump. McCain’s foreign policy credentials are well known. He believes Trump is too friendly with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and has said so publicly.

The feud has taken a new turn. McCain has criticized a military mission that Trump ordered. Trump and his team have said McCain should apologize for impugning the memory of a Navy SEAL who died in the operation in Yemen.

From where I sit, I didn’t here McCain disparage the gallantry of the fallen commando. It would be unthinkable for the former Vietnam War prisoner to say such a thing.

But this war of words between the leading Republicans doesn’t bode well for the new president getting much through the GOP-led Congress. It’s not that McCain is terribly popular among his colleagues; the difficulty might lie in McCain’s well-chronicled service to the country, which is infinitely greater than any such service Trump ever performed before he was elected president.

The Hill reports: “Further fights between McCain and Trump seem almost certain. Neither likes to back down from a fight, and it is hard to believe that Trump’s criticisms of McCain haven’t got under his skin.”

I am quite certain as well that Trump’s famously thin skin is pretty chapped these days, too.